CCIC monthly e-bulletin: February 2014                                                About CCIC     |     Contact Us
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Enabling environment for CSOs – a common agenda for charities and not-for-profits in Canada?

Julia Sanchez
From the day I started this job, I have been supportive of the notion that civil society in the international development sector would greatly benefit from strengthening our ties to other groups in Canadian civil society. This is on both a thematic level – for example on issues such as poverty, inequality, human rights, and the environment – as at an organizational level – for example, on the strategic use of volunteers, governance structures, conforming to changing legal and regulatory requirements. But increasingly there is one overarching theme that inextricable binds us all as civil society, be it at home or overseas: the enabling environment.

What is this enabling environment? Many of us probably know what this means for business and the private sector, yet we lack the same clarity and confidence in terms of what it means for ourselves.  One accepted and early definition is attributed to Jeff Thindwa from the World Bank: “An enabling environment is a set of interrelated conditions – such as legal, organisational, fiscal, informational, political, and cultural – that impact on the capacity of development actors such as CSOs to engage in development processes in a sustained and effective manner”.

In essence, for civil society organizations to function in society as independent development actors in our own right, and realize our full potential, we need governments to promote an environment that allows civil society to flourish. Yet, if we use this same lens to look at our own situation in Canada, we might be surprised at the low level of awareness or ownership that Canadian charities writ-large have around this agenda. And although it is true that civil society in many developing countries are fighting a tougher battle to gain this recognition and space, often with more at stake, we should be cognizant of not letting our guard down at home when our environment turns hostile and disabling, as it has.

I was recently invited to a meeting in Toronto that brought together an interesting group for a “roundtable discussion to explore opportunities for advancing public policy as it affects Canada's charitable and not-for-profit sector”. It was a good meeting that brought together people and organizations that are not always talking to each other, and yet who face similar challenges in terms of the environment in which they are operating.

Two things struck me in particular at this meeting: the first was when a former clerk of the Privy Council asked why we were not making a strong and clear case for institutional or core funding to be re-instated. The right to seek funding is an integral and implicit element of our freedom to associate as organizations, as UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai has reminded us. At the international level, assuring long-term funding for institutional strengthening of CSOs has been at the centre of our asks. So why have we given up on this at home?

The other thing that struck me was that I was the only person to underscore the fact that a vibrant civil society is a pre-condition of a healthy democracy, and should be core to our discussion and shared concerns. My observations and reminders were well received by most I think. And maybe for others it goes without saying, but I think it is worth repeating: the health of the sector is ultimately about the capacity of citizens to engage in democratic life in Canada, and therefore intimately linked to the health of our democratic system.

The exchanges at this meeting, and with other organizations within Canadian civil society, have been particularly useful in the sense that they shine a light on the common agenda that we all have as CSOs in Canada. If environmental groups, or indigenous groups, or women’s rights organizations are targeted for standing up for certain causes that are important to them (and important for all of us no doubt), and for opposing current government priorities or visions, our democracy is at risk. And ultimately, our collective capacities to advocate for what we believe to be important is also at risk. As charities and not-for-profits in Canada, we have the right (and obligation) to engage in a political and policy debate on the direction that our sector at large is going, and what kind of enabling environment we want for civil society to ensure that we have a central role to play in shaping our democracy.

And I am convinced that as international development CSOs, we have a particular contribution to make given our long involvement on these issues, working in partnership and solidarity with our civil society colleagues in the Global South.

In solidarity,


Do you have any reactions to this column? I’d like to hear about it! Please send any comments to Julia Sanchez.



Bring a rights focus to your work and greater equity into your partnerships

HRBAAt the end of February, and building on a successful pilot workshop in October, CCIC launched a new on-line Guide (in English and French) on Human Rights Based Approaches (HRBA) and Equitable Partnership. Developed in collaboration with the Coady International Institute and Equitas – The International Human Rights Education Centre, the Guide is geared towards providing concrete and very practical tools to organizations, for them to be able to integrate a human rights-based approach (HRBA) into their development programming and to identify a process to intentionally develop equitable partnerships. The Guide helps you plan a workshop for doing so – giving you suggestions on how to prepare, a sample application form for interested participants, a pre-training assignment, a case study template (to develop your own case study for the HRBA session), a sample workshop agenda and an evaluation questionnaire. It also helps you run the workshop, providing instructions for facilitating each activity and training materials for each activity (e.g., Powerpoints, worksheets, reference sheets). Reference resources include a list of key acronyms and an annotated bibliography of additional tools and resources. Facilitators are expected to use the guide to conduct the workshop, while participants will use it as a reference manual both during and after the workshop. All materials are available for download in different formats so that users can use and adapt them. The British Columbia Council for International Cooperation is already using the Guide with its members in the BC interior!

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Protect the Aid Budget: 21,000 supporters signed the petition

In less than three weeks, the Protect the Aid Budget campaign mobilized thousands of Canadians and generated a lot of media coverage. The two asks of the campaign were that no further cuts be made to the aid budget in Budget 2014 announcements, and that all funds allocated to international development be fully used (close to $300 million from last year’s budget were returned to Treasury Board). For now supporters can claim victory, as there was no mention of additional cuts in budget 2014. But let’s not forget that the cuts announced in March 2012, over a three year period, are still being implemented – so the aid budget in Canada continues to decline.


International Development Week 2014: thank you for sharing your stories!

Responding to a call that was made to CCIC members as well as the Regional and Provincial Councils, many organizations submitted positive and engaging stories on how they are making a difference in international development. Most of the stories –including beautiful photo essays- were published in the Ottawa Citizen Blog on Aid and Development during IDW. And because of the quality of the stories we will keep publishing them in the weeks to come. Please note that it is always possible to submit articles for the Citizen and CCIC’s blog, throughout the year, by contacting Chantal Havard.

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APWG Signed-on to a Joint Letter from Canadian Organizations to the Cambodian Embassy on Respecting Worker’s Rights in Cambodia

APWGTwenty-two human rights, trade union, student, international development and community organizations from across the country, including APWG, signed an Open Letter to the Cambodian Embassy. The letter addresses the need for workers’ rights in Cambodia to be respected, and condemns the violence perpetrated by members of the police and armed forces against striking garment workers there.

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Statement Expresses Concern Over Implications of the Canada-Honduras FTA

Concern over Implications of the Canada-Honduras FTAThe Americas Policy Group has joined 18 other civil society organizations in a statement expressing concern that the Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement (FTA) currently being debated in the House of Commons will further undermine human rights and democracy in Honduras. The debate began days after the inauguration of Juan Orlando Hernandez following a controversial presidential election. The bilateral trade deal was signed on November 5th, 2013, in the lead up to the presidential election, despite wide-spread opposition. Since the 2009 military coup against democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya, violence and repression have reached an all-time high in Honduras. APG and other CSOs call on the Canadian parliament to refrain from passing legislation to implement the Canada-Honduras FTA and for the Conservative government to re-centre its priorities in Honduras so as to emphasize the wellbeing of communities, as well as human and labour rights.

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Upcoming workshop on international investment agreements

CCIC’s working groups are collaborating to organize a half day learning workshop on international investment agreements on March 26 in Ottawa. The workshop will be conducted by Penelope Simons and Tony VanDuzer, authors of the book “Integrating Sustainable Development into International Investment Agreements: A Guide for Developing Country Negotiators”. This event will be an opportunity for members to learn more about investment agreements and how they can be improved to foster sustainable development. You can find the table of contents of this publication online by clicking here. Because of the limited seats available, the priority will be given to CCIC members. You may contact Denis Côté to register.

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New on CCIC blog

CCIC BLogFour new articles have been posted to our blog since the last publication of FLASH! Following up on his participation at an open data for development hackathon organized by DFATD, Fraser Reilly-King wrote a piece on the “data revolution” and on what still needs to be done if we want the data to be meaningful and useful for developing countries. After budget 2014 was tabled in parliament, Fraser also wrote an analysis of the actual situation of the aid budget. During International Development Week (Feb.2-8) AQOCI published a few portraits of Canadians engaged as volunteers or interns in developing countries.  And finally, Chantal Havard published an article that provides an overview of key highlights on the Canadian international development scene and on reasons to be hopeful.

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Coming up soon: a short survey for Flash! subscribers

FlashDear and faithfull readers of FLASH!, you will soon receive a request to complete a short survey on our e-bulletin. This version of FLASH!, with a new template and more content, was launched almost two years ago, and we would like to know what you like and read, what attracts your attention, and what could be improved. So check your inbox in the next two weeks and make sure that you take a few minutes to help us make FLASH! even better.

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Welcoming our new Member Engagement Officer

CCIC is thrilled to have Michelle Bested back on its team as the new Member Engagement Officer! Many of you might have met Michelle in November 2013, when she did an amazing job at coordinating our Policy Conference on Canadian Leadership for a Better World. Michelle is a people’s person and a young professional in international development who recently completed a Masters Degree in Development Management at the London School of Economics. She also has good work and field experience, having participated in internships, co-op placements and completed short term contracts in a few developing countries. Michelle’s role consists of maintaining and fostering an ongoing dialogue with members around their needs, organizing periodic learning and skills workshops and our annual forums, and monitoring the implementation of the Code of Ethics and Operational Standards. She will start working on March 3 and will be reachable at Welcome Michelle!

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Coalition Profile: Policy Action Group on Emergency Response (PAGER)

(To advance its policy agenda, support existing networks and have a greater impact, CCIC is involved in many coalitions. Each month we will be featuring one of them in Flash! so that you can get involved with them too.)

The Policy Action Group on Emergency Response (PAGER) is a member-based coalition that aims to enhance policy and operational dialogue amongst Canadian based organizations engaged in humanitarian response, including the Canadian government around international humanitarian emergencies.  Meeting three times a year, the coalition helps inform policy discussions by drawing on the evidence of operational realities (and vice versa), and creating a permanent space for dialogue and collaboration among Canadian Humanitarian Organisations and the Canadian government. Most of the quarterly meetings include both presentations on current themes on the humanitarian front, and specific trainings to build up the skill set of participants from member organizations. Every year, PAGER also organizes a meeting that brings together the heads of all of their respective organizations, with government officials and invited guest speakers, where they discuss an area of debate current to the humanitarian field. PAGER is also active in providing training events for humanitarian actors on subjects such as humanitarian standards, and quality and accountability. PAGER currently consists of 28 member organizations; CCIC sits as an observer. The next PAGER meeting is in early March where they will be discussing, among other things, the implications of the Anti-Terrorism Act on the activities of humanitarian organizations and the upcoming 2016 World Humanitarian Summit.

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MEMBER PROFILE: MiningWatch Canada

MIning Watch banner

MiningWatch banner hanging in La Puya, north of Guatemala City, where protestors continue to block a mining project from moving forward. Translation of banner message: In solidarity with the people of San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc - For their peaceful struggle in defence of health, water and a decent standard of living.

This month CCIC had an interesting conversation with Catherine Coumans, Research Co-ordinator at Mining Watch Canada. We discussed the work being done by the organization to influence public policy and mining practices to ensure the health of communities and the environment, and how Canada could become a leader in making mining companies accountable...among other things!

CCIC - Your mission is about “Changing public policy and mining practices to ensure the health of individuals, communities and ecosystems”. What are some of the main challenges and opportunities in achieving this in the current context?

There is a fundamental conflict between the public interest — especially mining-affected communities who seek to protect their access to land and ecosystems which form the basis for sustainable social, environmental, and economic development — and the interests of mining companies that seek to exploit the natural resources beneath the surface. Canadian mining interests are strongly supported by the actual Canadian government.  Some Canadian civil society organizations, consultants, and others are also partnering with, or working for, the industry.  We believe this magnifies a crippling imbalance of power that disadvantages communities with minimal resources and capacity in their struggle to protect values of importance to them.  MiningWatch Canada seeks ways to address this power imbalance through our research, advocacy, and policy work.

We work within a global context of struggle for environmental and social justice rooted in intensive long-term strategic work by civil society movements in the “host” countries where Canadian mining companies and their international supporters operate. The tools of this struggle range widely, including: local moratoriums, referendums, protests, and blockades; media campaigns (including social, alternative, and mass media), shareholder activism; non-judicial grievance mechanisms (e.g., in Canada: the Canadian National Contact Point (NCP) under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, or the World Bank’s Compliance Advisor Ombudsman), legal action (e.g., the current Hudbay case undertaken by Klippensteins), requests for anti-corruption investigations by the RCMP under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, and policy engagement with representatives of host and home governments and various UN bodies.

Read the full interview...

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ICAD ED newest member to the Developed Country NGO Delegation to the Global Fund

ICADICAD’s Executive Director, Robin Montgomery, has been selected to join the Developed Country NGO Delegation to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for a three-year term starting in 2014. Congratulations to ICAD and to Robin!

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Imagine Canada rolling out a new narrative for the charitable sector

Imagine CanadaImagine Canada has just released the first elements of its Narrative Tool Kit! As you may have heard, Imagine Canada has been working with others –including CCIC- to create a New Narrative for the charitable and non profit sector – a new conversation with Canadians about the importance of this work. The tool kit is designed to help members of the charitable sector better explain to Canadians who we are, what we do and how we’re making a difference. The issue sheets in particular will be helpful for anyone preparing a presentation, or getting ready to speak with their donors, volunteers, board members, etc. Imagine Canada will be adding more information periodically, so be sure to bookmark the site and visit it often. CCIC’s Communications Task Force will work on building and complementing this Narrative Tool Kit, by adding tools, messages and issue sheets that are specific to our sector.

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BE THE CHANGE: A global campaign by CIVICUS global to inspire and celebrate citizen action

Be the Change

BE THE CHANGE was launched last November and mobilised over a thousand users on its website who are constantly adding more stories that draw support for campaigns and inspire others to organise, speak out and take action. Once you have registered, you can share stories of actions or campaigns that you, your organisation, another organisation or someone that has inspired you has undertaken.

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What’s rising to the top in the post-2015 discussions

What's Rising in the post-2015 discussions

Since January 2013, The North-South Institute has been tracking Post-2015 Development Agenda proposals through their interactive Post-2015 Tracking Tool. After a year of work, they have analyzed their findings and released a report that identifies the issues that are gaining the most traction across post-2015 proposals and showcases the types of data that are being sought to track development progress. Top of the list? Environment, health, education, employment and inclusive growth.

(click image to enlarge)

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A new series of publications on aid effectiveness

Publications on Aid EffectivenessDevelopment Policy Review has published a series of articles that emerged from an event entitled "Unpacking Aid Effectiveness: Examining Donor Dynamics" held at the London School of Economics. They include:

  1. Organising for Donor Effectiveness: An Analytical Framework for Improving Aid Effectiveness ;
  2. Political-Economy Analysis, Aid Effectiveness and the Art of Development Management ;
  3. Bringing Aid Management Closer to Reality: The Experience of Danish Bilateral Development Cooperation ;
  4. The Hollow Ring of Donor Commitment: Country Concentration and the Decoupling of Aid-Effectiveness Norms from Donor Practice.

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Publication of a New Book on Bright Spots in International Capacity Development

Bright Spots In International Capacity

A new book entitled Improving International Capacity Development: Bright Spots by Jim Armstrong, President of The Governance Network, has been published recently by Palgrave Macmillan. Drawing on research and practical experience, Jim Armstrong explores the failures and success-stories of capacity development projects.

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New report by Eurodad: "A matter of high interest: Assessing how loans are reported as development aid"

Eurodad ReportThis report analyses the current debate around concessional lending conditions and assesses how the rules should be refined to ensure that development objectives remain at the core of ODA reporting. More specifically, it looks at the loopholes of the quantitative and qualitative tests used to assess loan concessionality, highlights how some donors have interpreted the system’s ambiguity to implement rules in a way that suits their interests, and outlines concerns of inflated donors’ commitments and debt sustainability in developing countries.

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What do CSOs want from the High Level Meeting on Development Cooperation in Mexico?

In April, the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation will be meeting in Mexico to discuss next steps on implementing the outcomes of the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness from Busan. Chair of the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness discusses the latest developments in a short video.

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Tracking food reserves

Tracking Food ReservesOxfam, Acord and the Institute for Agricultural and Trade Policies have launched a new website to facilitate access to information and create a community of knowledge on local, national, regional and international food reserves. The initiative emerged from a seminar organized in October 2012 by the three groups on the topic.

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Launch of ISID Research to Practice Policy Briefs

McGill’s Institute for the Study of International Development (ISID) has launched a new series of publications, Research to Practice Policy Briefs. The policy briefs, 32 in total, are part of a CIDA-funded project entitled “Strengthening the Contributions of Universities to Evidence-Based Policymaking,” covering a broad range of topics. Titles in the series include: “Improving Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) Programs in sub-Saharan Africa: Policy Recommendations”; “The Policy Implications of Evolving Aid Modalities”; and “The Development Impact of Extractive Industries: Policy Options for CIDA.

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IDRC invites applications for its Canadian Partnerships Small Grants


IDRC invites applications for its 2014-2015 Small Grants for Innovative Research and Knowledge Sharing. Provided through the Canadian Partnerships program, these grants support research, knowledge-building, and knowledge-sharing projects. They also fund events and small dissemination activities and products. These grants are open to local, regional, national, and international organizations, incorporated and headquartered in Canada that produce or share knowledge for development. Individuals may not apply. Organizations new to IDRC are encouraged to apply. The deadline is March 18th, 2014.

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If you have an item for Flash, send it by e-mail to Chantal Havard. Please note that Flash items should be no longer than one paragraph.